Writing: thoughts about cuts

Even though I expected to do mostly smaller revisions and some consolidation (UK/US spelling, location naming consistency, capitalization consistency), I eventually did one larger change when preparing the current draft. I took out a big part of the early story – some parts were removed completely, some parts were compressed. The reason was that it felt like it takes far too long to set up and get to the point.

Fact is, I was thinking of doing this in one way or another for a while. And it led me to think about the topic of cutting stuff from a draft: where, how and why I did that over time.

While it’s not something I did all the time, especially when I was rewriting more than cutting and cuts were in the scope of paragraphs at most, eventually I began to put the cut parts into a separate file just in case I’d want to have a look or use them in some other way such as putting them up as “behind the scenes” somewhere on my web after release.

At this point, the cuts are probably around 25000 words, which looks like quite an amount. The current draft is at ~218000 and the peak was around ~245000 so it’s slightly over 10% at the first look, before counting some of the larger rewrites.

So, what types of scenes I cut and why?

Flashback

Probably the first scene I’ve removed was a flashback that revealed a small bit of backstory but I eventually realized that this level of detail is not really needed and that the flashback was something I could not get working right when it came to placing it in the actual story. It’s one of the parts I have archived and might later upload as ‘bonus content’.

Excessive dialogue

Probably not the best way to call it. Anyway, there were a few places where I removed some dialogue that, again, contributed little. This was, in most cases, just by a few lines, half a page at most. A dialogue was more often rewritten than cut if I found some problems there.

Excessive detail

In one scene, a character goes to a library to study how shielding magic works and to get some idea how to go on with his skills. Originally, I wrote it in a style that interwove the descriptions the character was reading from the books with his own thoughts. The result was almost four pages of magical theory that was eventually hard for me to navigate when editing. In the end, I compressed it a lot and put the book-like explanations aside – again ready to reveal them at a later date as extra content.

Repetition

This was the case why I cur and merged what was (in the specific drafts) chapters 12 and 13, and chapters 35 and 38 respectively. There was some repetition that added little except for inflating the word count and so I took the best from both and merged it into one to hopefully create a result with a better flow. These led me to the realization that action for the sake of action might not be good, something I could not see when I was beginning (and enjoyed having demons chopped to pieces left right and center any chance I got, almost like one of the characters).

Collateral damage

Larger cuts (especially if it was a whole chapter) usually had some effect on the rest of the story. Even if what I removed contributed little, I had to check the whole story and remove any part that would mention it – even if it was several chapters later. This is probably the hardest part, to make sure I don’t overlook anything. Sometimes just removing a mention was enough, sometimes I had to rewrite a part of a dialogue that mentioned a removed event.


So that way about what I was cutting. What is probably the hardest question is: to cut or to not cut?

I admit that I was, in the beginning, very reluctant to cut anything longer than a paragraph. I wrote it, so it had to have a reason to be there, right? It took me a while to learn that the answer is no.

In the end, it’s probably the opposite: if I, who knows the story in its entirety, doubts the purpose of a scene, then a reader who knows only what I show will most likely wonder why is it even there.

The latest removal affected almost six chapters, of which two were removed completely and some others compressed. While some parts worked to set up some characters, I realized it could be done when they have some real reason to appear. The second reason for these parts was to give one of the characters some background and eventually have it show how he made some of the decisions. The problem was that during edits and drafts, I managed to get better chances to show that and so these early parts became redundant.

I originally wanted to leave that part included for the first beta draft and see what feedback I could get but as mentioned above, if I doubt a scene’s purpose, it’s probably because it’s missing one (or is very small). Plus, it means that they’d have much less to chew through.

I don’t dare to guess what might come next. Maybe I’ll make more cuts over time, maybe I’ll need to add some detail elsewhere to clarify some things that a reader will not know despite being obvious to me. The beta stage will be the first real test of what I learned over the three years.

It’s both terrifying and exhilarating prospect. Which part will be dominant, I don’t know.


So, that’s all from me for today. Comments on the topic are always welcome.

One thought on “Writing: thoughts about cuts

  1. Pingback: Writing update: First beta draft complete! | Tomas's blog and web

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